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3 days ago
Rookie scrum-half Michael Dobson will bid a fond farewell to Wigan Warriors on Friday after a fairytale first season in Super League, with a promise to return and finish his career in England.
The little Australian is one of four Wigan players making their last appearances for the club in the final match of the regular season against Grand Final hopefuls Hull FC at the JJB Stadium.
Winger Brett Dallas, who has scored 107 tries in 176 matches, is set to return from injury to pull on a Wigan shirt for the last time, as will Canberra-bound prop Scott Logan and ex-Castleford Tigers hooker Wayne Godwin, who is joining the East Yorkshire outfit next season.
All three have contributed to the Warriors? revival but it is 20-year-old Dobson, alongside Great Britain prop Stuart Fielden, who is credited with the major role in the club?s great escape.
Plucked from the obscurity of reserve-grade football in Canberra by Catalans Dragons, the unknown Dobson caught the eye as a superb stand-in for Stacey Jones and was seen by Brian Noble as the player to turn around Wigan?s ailing fortunes.
Despite missing the first month of the season and being on the losing side in nine of his first 12 Super League matches, he has climbed to third place in the scoring charts with 207 points from 23 matches, 128 of them from 13 appearances with Wigan.
His midfield prompting and shrewd kicking has helped the Warriors to nine wins from their last 11 matches, a spectacular run that lifted them clear of relegation.
"When I started the season with Canberra, I never would have thought I would have gone to France and ended up at Wigan," he said.
"The way it?s all turned out, it?s like a dream come true.
"I knew there was a fair chance of turning things around and in the end we did because we?re a class team and it?s a shame we can?t go any further after this weekend.
"I think I?ve done the job they brought me in to do but it?s been a team effort. Everyone has really stuck their hand up since I?ve been here and it?s been a pleasure playing with everyone.
"I think when I look back at this in 10 years time, it?s going to be one of the highlights of my career, it?s been awesome."
Dobson rejected an offer from Castleford when his time was up in Perpignan and, with the Tigers facing a relegation decider on Saturday, he can only wonder what might have been had he made a different decision.
While he has been good for Wigan, Dobson acknowledges that his own development has been accelerated by a season in Super League and he has been tipped to gain representative honours in Australia.
"The experience I?ve gained working with the players and the coaches I have has helped my game," he said.
"I?ll work on a few things in the off season and hopefully I can have another good season next year.
"Everyone in Australia wants to play in the Origin Series and for the Kangaroos, which is very hard to get into but, down the track, it?s definitely something I want to work to.
"But first I want to make my debut back home and show what I can do.
"I?d definitely like to come back but I don?t think it will be for a few years because I want to establish myself in the NRL and have a good career. Then I?ll definitely look to come back over.
"I like England as a country, it?s opened up my eyes to the rest of the world. I?d definitely like to play for Wigan again. Whether they would have me or not is a different story."
Although the result will not affect either team?s final position, Wigan are expecting another bumper crowd and a 14,000-plus attendance will take their season?s total past the 200,000 mark and give them their best average since Super League began in 1996.
Wigan Warriors 18-man squad: Ashton, Calderwood, Dallas, Dobson, Fielden, Fletcher, Godwin, Hansen, Higham, Hock, Logan, McAvoy, O?Loughlin, Orr, Paleaaesina, Richards, Tickle, Vaealiki.
Hull FC 18-man squad: Briscoe, Carvell, Cooke, Dale, Dowes, Hall, G. Horne, R. Horne, King, Lee, Radford, Raynor, Swain, Tony, Washbrook, Wheeldon, Whiting, Yeaman.
Referee: B Thaler